When All Hope Was LostStarted by Brendon Dean at May 30, 2020 8:10 pm
"Man this is a big day." Brendon chuckled, shaking his head a little. Ryan and potatoes? Who woulda thought?! "When did you get a dog, anyway?" He asked, looking at Shiloh. She seemed harmless enough - probably wouldn't be if Brendon pulled a knife out in a threatening way - but he felt a little uneasy with her being there. He was definitely more of a cat person...not that the cats around were particularly friendly either. He also didn't really understand the point of having a pet, but seeing as Bosler had potatoes, he doubted they were wanting for meat.
"Alright, sure." He took the knife and potatoes, noticing Ryan's expression at the sight of his hands. He couldn't help but laugh. "No moisturiser in the apocalypse, darling." He smiled, hoping to put Ryan at ease. He could probably have taken better care of his hands, but he'd never seen the point. He could grip things better now they were worn anyway. He set to work on the potatoes, throwing the odd peeling over at Shiloh, letting out a little laugh when she sniffed them out. He nodded when Ryan spoke. "Mm. I thought for sure you would be. Nobody got out of those places..." He still remembered that day like it was just yesterday.
When he felt Ryan's lips on his cheek, quick as it was, he blushed, almost dropping the potato he was peeling. He let out a slightly nervous giggle. "Wh-...what was that for?" He glanced at Ryan, nudging the peeled and chopped potatoes he'd already prepared closer to the other. "You miss me that much, huh?"
Ryan simply nodded his agreement at that, knowing there was no way to really express just how big a day it was. "Uhm... About a year and a half ago? She just kinda... found me, actually. Woke up one morning to this puppy curled up next to me, and she just stuck around. Huskies are pretty loyal, so I figured there wasn't any harm in keeping her. Plus, she's a good girl. Aren't ya?" He laughed softly when she just rolled onto her back and gave him an expectant look until he gave her belly rubs.
"Well, ya didn't look hard enough for it then!" he fired back, voice heavy with playful sarcasm, trying to swallow the guilt back down. As he worked, he couldn't help but chuckle softly as the dog lazily dragged herself closer to the potato skins, and then began inching closer to Brendon with a hopeful expression for more. When Brendon spoke up again, though, he sighed softly. "Got outta there before it happened, thankfully... That place was..." He trailed off with a shake of his head. The things he saw going on at that goddamn work camp... They were best never repeated aloud...
His eyes dropped to the ground the second he heard the giggle, his own face heating up and turning an impossibly crimson hue. "I... Uhmmmm... I..." he stammered awkwardly. "Shut uuuuuup!" He couldn't help the whiny tone his voice took on suddenly, feeling 16 all over again. Trying not to think about how it wasn't necessarily a bad feeling, he tossed the potatoes into the pan with everything else, and set it down on a small grate over the fire. "Did miss you though," he mumbled softly to the fire. "Thought about going back for you every day... Never thought you'd turn up here, though." He finally turned his head to look back up at him, eyes once again welling up. "Just... Promise you won't disappear again, okay? I can't do another 10 years not knowing..."
Brendon smiled at the story. "That's nice. You're lucky to have found her, before someone else did." Someone like me, he thought bitterly. He would have eaten well that night if he'd found her, that was for sure. The thought actually sickened him a little, standing there, watching the interaction between Ryan and Shiloh. She was alright, really, for a dog.
He laughed and nudged Ryan with his elbow. "In my defence it wasn't for lack of trying! I found an aloe plant once. Turns out I'm horribly allergic." He laughed again, but it wasn't really funny. There may have been a very small amount of moisturiser out there, but epipens were much, much harder to come by. "Spent three days with hands like balloons." He licked his lips as Ryan spoke again and let out a small noise of agreement. "I can't imagine they were particularly nice places to go." He looked down at the vegetables. "I'm sorry that happened to you." He'd spent a long time in the early days worrying about what would have happened to Ryan, what would continuously be happening to him. Picturing him dead somewhere became easier and easier to deal with.
He chuckled and nudged Ryan again. "I did too, the first few days. I spent so long in LA it was ridiculous." He smiled. "Don't worry. I've been looking for somewhere to stay this whole time. I don't think I could do another ten years on my own..." He swallowed, his stomach somersaulting. No. Ten days, maybe, but ten years was too long.
"Definitely, yeah. She's saved my ass a few times too. Her bark's worse than her bite, but man can she act scary sometimes," Ryan admitted with a chuckle. It wasn't any stretch to say that she had legitimately saved his life on more than one occasion, and he'd be forever grateful to her for that.
He tried not to laugh at the image of Brendon fumbling around, hands inflated to a comical size, and succeeded save for a snort that turned into a little bubble of a giggle. "Y'know... Thinking back on it, its a miracle you survived this long doing shit like that!" It was playful, of course, but he did have some distinct memories of Brendon being a bit of an idiot when they were teenagers. He wasn't much better back then, but his point still stood. The comment about the work camps was met with a shrug, and soft hum. Clearly, it wasn't something he was ready to talk about yet.
He nodded softly at that, not saying anything right away. It was as though he needed a moment to convince himself that what Brendon was saying was the truth. Then, he smiled softly. "Well, you've got a place here... As long as you don't mind bunking up with me and Shi. The Barracks kinda suck anyway... And yes, you can have all the potatoes you want. They're literally giving them away, there's so many," he chuckled softly, fussing with the contents of the pan for a moment.
"I mean, she looks scary enough. She'd certainly make me think twice if I saw her out there." Just her breed was enough for some people, even when there wasn't an apocalypse happening. Brendon gave Shiloh another look, this time actually smiling at her. Hopefully he'd be less uneasy around her given time. He didn't want to have to insist Ryan leave her alone just so they could chat.
He laughed and nodded. He couldn't agree with the other more if he tried. "I know! I'm a clumsy idiot at the best of times!" He shook his head. "Remember when I tried demonstrating my tree climbing skills and almost broke my neck?" He laughed. "Not my crowning achievement, that." He remembered his mother running out of the house with so much concern written on her face, then the complete change that came over her when she realised he was okay. She'd laughed with relief but man was she pissed. Brendon thought the entire ordeal was hilarious. He respected Ryan not wanting to talk about the work camp, though. If he'd been sent to one and survived, he didn't think he'd wanna talk about it either. The stories he'd heard...they just didn't bear thinking about.
"Nah, I don't mind. Honestly having the company is gonna do me wonders...you have no idea..." It was hard trying to sleep in the middle of winter on your own, especially when the only thing you had covering you were the clothes you were wearing, a plastic sheet and the slight mercy of half a wall. He was still amazed he'd gotten as far as he had. He had fires to thank for it, really. Good thing he knew how to get a fire going. He chuckled at the potatoes comment. "Tell you what...here..." He moved to his bag and took out the cans he'd taken from that old guy. "We can trade these for other things too."
"And she's not even fully grown either!" Ryan added with a laugh, gently patting her butt now that she was back to lounging in the grass. "She's the biggest cuddle bug around though. Rub her belly and feed her, and she'll be your best friend."
The memory of the tree thing had him laughing hard. "Ohmigod! I thought your mum was gonna kill me for letting you do that, and then kill you when she realized what happened! Its a wonder she didn't murder you in your sleep or something with all the shit we got up to." There was no doubting they'd both been rambunctious as kids, getting into all sorts of trouble wherever they could find it. "Remember when whats-his-face down the road gave us firecrackers, and we almost set my garage on fire?" That one was mostly him being an idiot and lighting them off too close to some kind of flammable chemicals, but Brendon had been there for that one too.
"I hear you there. Be nice to have some company at night... Gets kinda spooky out here," he agreed. While Bryce was great company during the day, there was definitely the issue of him turning into a bit of a violent sociopath at night. Plus, while he'd never admit to it, there was part of him that... Well, he wasn't quite scared of the dark, but it definitely made him nervous to be alone in the dark, even if he knew it was safe... He looked at the cans when Brendon pulled them out, eyes narrowing for a second to read the labels, and then nodded. "Yeah, I know a couple people in town that'd go for those, actually... Milo would definitely trade us something decent for 'em." Over the years, he'd gotten surprisingly good at trading things around, starting with something small and simple, and somehow managing to upgrade to progressively better things until he got what he wanted.
"She's not?!" Brendon looked at Shiloh with surprise. "She's already massive! How much bigger will she get?" He didn't know if he'd be able to cope with a massive dog that came up to his shoulders. He knew nothing about huskies, of course, so had no mental images to go on. The only thing he did know was that they looked worryingly like wolves, and those fuckers were huge.
He laughed and nodded. "You know our mothers tried to get us to stop seeing one another so much, right? I caught them in the kitchen talking about it one afternoon." He snickered. "They knew it wouldn't work." How could it have done, seeing as both of them had snuck out while grounded so many times? They weren't bad kids, just spirited. Well, that's how Brendon's dad had put it. "Oh my god! Never mind your garage, we almost set ourselves on fire! Remember our neighbour's face?!" He laughed, picturing it. He missed his childhood, but not just because of the antics they got up to. He missed it because it was the last time he made a genuine connection with someone that didn't entail doing it to stay alive or doing it to stay sane.
"It does get spooky..." Brendon wondered what Bosler was like at night. There were plenty of campfires around, so he doubted it got dark dark, but still. Having Ryan there, he knew, was going to make the world of difference. No expectations, no hidden agendas, just sleep. He almost wanted it to be night time already. "Yeah? Good to know. I don't feel so bad about taking them from that old guy now." He chuckled, then realised how bad that must've sounded. "Oh, err, like...he'd been dead for about ten minutes before I took them. So..." He shrugged, hoping he still didn't sound like an insensitive dick.
Ryan giggled when Shiloh just looked up at Brendon, head tilted in confusion. "I'd say she's probably gonna put on another 30 pounds, and probably another couple inches of height going from the size of her paws. She'll be like..." He motioned to roughly about the top of his hip bone; a good increase from her current height where he could basically stand over top of her back, but nothing too crazy. "I think she might be part malamute or something too, but personality-wise, she's husky through and through." He gave her a chunk of raw potato that hadn't made it into the pan, which she munched on quite happily.
"I'm betting grandma sent mum over to talk about it," he chuckled almost bitterly. It was something of an open secret that his mum hadn't ever cared for parenthood too much. His grandmother wasn't much better, but she at least tried to keep up the facade. The chuckle turned into a genuine laugh at the reminder, shaking his head. "I thought he was gonna kick our asses for that! Oh man!" He paused for a second. "Remember when we were like 11, and stayed up all night, watching movies, and got into the junk food so bad we both puked when grandma found us in the morning?" He'd caught hell - and a few cracks upside the head - for that one after she sent Brendon home, but the memory of simpler times with his childhood best friend was one he would cherish forever. Even now, the light that had appeared in his eyes and the little grin on his face screamed that memories like those spoke to precisely that.
He was about to respond when Brendon informed him of how he'd acquired the cans, and he had to pause for a moment. "Y'know what... I'm not even gonna ask," he finally replied with a hint of a chuckle. "Least its not going to waste." Sometimes you had to do what you had to do in order to survive, and he was no stranger to that fact. Plus, if the guy really was old, then maybe it'd just simply been his time to go. Either way, he wasn't going to question it. "Hey, wanna go into the tent, and grab a couple plates and mugs? They should be in the blue bin on the left side. Just... be careful. Its a mess in there." Just like his childhood room, there was random stuff strewn all over the tent in a haphazard organization system that only he seemed to understand. He took the pan off the fire, ready to dish it out when Brendon brought over the dishes.
That sounded big. Really big. If Brendon had ended up there when Shiloh was fully grown, there was no way he would be able to go near her. But seeing as he was (hopefully) going to be around for a while, and the process would be gradual, he didn't think it would be too bad. At least, he hoped it wouldn't. "That's a big dog..." He let out a chuckle that only sounded slightly nervous. She really didn't seem dangerous. Was he worrying over nothing? It wasn't like he was going to hurt anybody.
Brendon remembered not liking Ryan's grandmother. Or his mother. He heard his own parents saying a few times how they'd happily take Ryan in if they needed to, but nothing ever came of it. And then it was too late. Maybe they were scared, he didn't know. "Yeah." Their neighbour had been pretty scary too. "Oh, man!" He laughed, remembering the night in question. "Why do you think I stopped eating Cheetos?!" Sure, eating them had been great, but watching them come back up in reverse? Not so much. He couldn't even eat cheese for at least four months afterwards.
He looked at Ryan with surprise at his comment about the old man and the cans. "He-..." He let out a hum, a smile on his face. "He was really sick. It was...weird..." Of all the death and destruction he'd seen before that, watching that man die had been the most painful. He was so confused and kept calling Brendon by what he assumed was his son's name. "Oh, yeah, sure..." He turned and crawled into the tent, letting out an exclamation when he looked inside properly. "How do you have so much crap in here?!" He laughed, looking for the things Ryan had told him to find.
Ryan couldn't help but notice the unease at the idea of Shiloh getting bigger. "She's not gonna hurt you. I promise. If anything, she'll just eat all your food when you're not looking, and then give you the puppy dog eyes so you don't give her shit for it," he chuckled, trying to be reassuring as much as he could. He wasn't going to mention the fact that he had no doubts that she'd tear up anyone who fucked with him. He was trying to be reassuring here...
"Dude, I had Cheetos and Coke come outta my nose!" he laughed, trying to focus on the highlights instead of... Well, everything else. He fell silent after a moment, chewing at his lip and just looking up at Brendon quietly. There was so much he wanted to say, but couldn't seem to find the words for any of it. Even still, he was going to try here... "Y'know... Don't think I ever said this, but... thanks... for, like, everything," he mumbled awkwardly. It still felt like it had fallen flat, but he just simply didn't know how to express all of the things he was thinking and feeling about the man before him.
The pensive mood continued for a moment longer, just nodding softly at that. "Least he didn't have to die alone..." It was an awkward, ugly subject for sure, but he was trying to be at least a little bit optimistic about it all. He broke out into a laugh, however, when Brendon shouted from inside the tent. "Its not that bad! Most of it is like... bedding and stuff!" he fired back in amusement. He had his sleeping bag and a couple of pillows, but there was also something of a nest inside the tent. Most of it was spare clothes, some threadbare blankets, and pretty much anything else he could scrounge up to give himself a soft, warm place to sleep. It might be the apocalypse, but like hell was he going to suffer if he could avoid it!